Eva Fàbregas is also one of many artists experimenting with industrial materials to fabricate surrogate, gross body parts. Her illustration-like works on paper have a playful campy-gore vibe, as if the cartoon guts from a disemboweled anime character turned into penises and started devouring each other in a disgusting, adorable, pastel-hued ouroboros orgy. But it’s her amorphous silicone sculptures that steal the show. Viewers are invited to squeeze and manipulate them, which can cause nipple-like protrusions to emerge from squishy blobs that at first look like enormous testicles, but then become breasts, and then something wholly other as the engorged nipples take on exaggerated phallic proportions.
Anita Mucolli, who has a solo booth celebrating her Helvetia Art Prize win, definitely also takes the blue ribbon in the campy body horror category. Of all the lumpy, phallic/organic ceramics on view at the fair, hers are simultaneously the creepiest and cutest. The installation is populated by ceramic creatures that nod to H.R. Geiger’s “face-hugger” creatures from Alien, as well as cactuses, insect stingers, tentacles, dildos, and other things that could prick you (no pun intended). They’re lounging around a pool filled with a milky white liquid that glows when the sunlight hits it. This installation hits all the right notes as the grand finale of one very weird, very smart fair.
But my personal favorite booth is probably Southard Reid’s solo presentation of Armando D. Cosmos’s comfort-blanket-scaled tapestries. Each is the end product of a process that begins with collaging archival material related to science, technology, and the environment from sources such as old textbooks or pamphlets. They’re beautiful and touch on the contradictory impulse to feel optimistic about “progress” and terrified about the toxic legacy left by once-innovative pesticides or nuclear power plants that promised to feed or electrify the world.
These works are woven with mixed polyester/cotton yarn—typically a big environmental no-no, because when natural and synthetic fibers are combined, the organic fibers can never again be composted into the organic nutrient cycle, and the synthetic polymers can’t be put back in the recycling stream of man-made materials because they’ve been “tainted” by the organic fibers. However, thankfully, Cosmos makes his mixed-fiber weavings using yarn recycled from the waste piles of large-scale mills.* Cosmos even told me his newer works are 100 percent cotton—ensuring they’re eco-friendly for their whole lifecycle.
There’s a utopian sci-fi charm to “Sheltering the Future” I’m immediately drawn to. The blocks of text explain that planning dense, transit-oriented cities could house the majority of the world’s population on 3 percent of the land while preserving the majority of the world’s natural landscapes and green space. The source material comes across as a bit naive considering the illustrations look like they came from an era when the majority of the English-speaking world was busy bulldozing forests and fields to build highways, suburban tract housing, and shopping centers with parking lots bigger than most European downtowns. But in the context of Switzerland, where charmingly retro-futuristic modernist towers are shoehorned into a city from the 13th century, and you can take an electric tram down largely carless streets and arrive at the countryside in mere minutes, it feels like a nice postcard from this privileged little bubble of alternate reality.
*This text has been updated to reflect that the artist uses recycled yarn from large-scale mills’ waste piles.